World of Warcraft gave players a front row seat to the judgement of Sylvanas Windrunner, former Warlord of the Horde, leader of the Forsaken, Dark Lady, Banshee Queen, and, unofficially, Scourge of Teldrassil. Sylvanas’s unapologetic motivation since Cataclysm has been to find a way to preserve the Forsaken. As undead, her people cannot reproduce. The only way to save them from eventual extinction was by continuing to raise the dead, or by making a pact with the Jailer to rewrite reality. Now that Sylvanas’s story has ended (for now), how will this impact the future of the Forsaken?
From Death’s Blade Arose The Forsaken
The story of the Forsaken began with tragedy. Arthas Menethil, Crown Prince of Lordaeron, succumbed to a combination of inner demons and otherworldly influence, to shed his humanity and become the Lich King, one of the most terrible and revered villains in Azeroth’s history. He cut a swath across the Eastern Kingdoms with the cursed sword Frostmourne, transforming his victims into ruthless undead and adding them to the ranks of the Scourge. One of these unfortunate souls was Sylvanas Windrunner.
It was during the Scourge’s invasion of the kingdom of Quel’Thalas, that the brave Ranger General Windrunner faced Arthas. Sylvanas had organized a stiff resistance to the invasion and aided in the evacuation of civilians. Yet, she was no match when engaged in personal combat with Arthas, and she fell. Rather than adding her body to the regular ranks, he rose Sylvanas into an undead banshee, with her mind intact, and her will taken from her. In a final act of horror, he had Sylvanas partake in the destruction of the people she swore to protect.
Arthas traveled on to the northern continent of Northrend and took his place on the Frozen Throne. As events unfolded, his grip on some of the Scourge in the south weakened, until some undead slipped free of his control, including Sylvanas. She rallied the freed undead and, with some demonic help, waged a civil war against the Scourge. In the process, she discovered her body in stasis, and managed to transfer her soul back into it. Her forces took control of the ruins of Lordaeron and the surrounding areas, establishing the Undercity in the ruins’ depths.
This is a very condensed history. If you are interested in a deep dive, I recommend reading Arthas: Rise of the Lich King, and the recently published, Sylvanas, by the wonderful Christie Golden.
A New Path For The Forsaken
I touched upon the Forsaken’s plight in a speculative article about the next expansion, and still hope Blizzard addresses both their and the Night Elves following the Fourth War in-game, rather than in a novel or other media outlet. Though Sylvanas is gone, the Forsaken’s existential crisis remains.
Lilian Voss became the Representative of the Forsaken on the Horde Council, following the betrayal and desertion of Sylvanas, with Calia Menethil serving as Councilor. Lilian considers her position as temporary, pending assignment of a more suitable, long term leader. It is still unknown what plans, if any, Lilian and Calia have concerning the Forsaken’s future, but their backgrounds provide fresh perspectives.
Lilian was introduced in Cataclysm and remains one of my favorite WoW characters. We meet her in one of the first quests as a new Forsaken, assisting in the awakening and orientation of other fresh undead. Lilian’s negative reaction to being undead is understandable once we learn she was the daughter of High Priest Beneditus Voss; raised to be a potent weapon in the Scarlet Crusade arsenal against all undead. How she died is not revealed. When next we encounter Lilian, she is a prisoner of the Crusade, sentenced to death by her own father, as just another undead. Rather than accepting execution, Lilian exhibits a powerful surge of shadow magic, escapes imprisonment, kills her guard, and eventually her father. She then disappears in one undead woman crusade against the Scarlet Crusade. Players encounter Lilian throughout following expansions. I hoped she would be the one to challenge Sylvanas. I would have liked to have witnessed the match up of their powers.
Even if you are a devout Alliance player, I recommend playing once through the Forsaken starting area, for the pleasure of meeting Lilian.
Calia Menethil is an incredibly interesting person, being the former Princess of Lordaeron, and older sister of Arthas, who has been in hiding since Arthas killed their father. However, to those who didn’t read Before The Storm, by Christie Golden, she just appears in the game without explanation. This makes it difficult to connection and care about the character. This is a missed opportunity as the Gathering, a pinnacle event in the novel, would have made a great quest line or solo scenario. I do not want to go into detail and instead recommend reading the book.
A Possible Solution
Since forced resurrection of the dead and off-world pacts are off the table, I have a proposal, inspired by Calia and Anduin‘s attempted Gathering. In the spirit of reconciliation and building a lasting peace, Gathering events should continue and expand into regular visitations between living family members and their Forsaken relatives.
With improved trust between the factions, and understanding of what it means to be undead, an arrangement can be reached in which humans can volunteer to be raised as undead, allowing them to be reunited with past loved ones, have the benefit of continued existence, and maintain the Forsaken’s population. The plan’s merits improve if the Light’s energy, which created Calia, raises them, and possibly even transform existing Forsaken, into a new race: Lightforged Forsaken (and they can be paladins!). This can be accomplished, perhaps, by a Naaru parking themselves in the new or refurbished Forsaken capital city to confer with and accommodate those seeking to become transformed.
This is a crazy idea but it fits within the parameters of current lore and events.
What do you think of the Forsaken? Will their fate even be mentioned now that Sylvanas has been removed?